My Childhood, Medically High
Hallucinating my way to a normal brain
When I was 8, I was having about 100 seizures a day.
I was put on a medication called Zarontin, which I would take until I was 14.
My seizures caused hallucinations, and my seizure medication caused other hallucinations. I was quiet most of the time because I simply didn’t know was real. I didn’t enjoy competitive sports because all these unreal things were very real distractions, and I didn’t want to keep being blamed for my team losing.
I couldn’t sleep in rooms that had doors, so I slept in the dining room.
Sometimes I would run out of my own house screaming.
And so on. We had the Internet, so I would look up famous epileptics. I would see Joan of Arc burned alive and decide against telling my parents and doctors about my near-constant hallucinations.
I would be good. Quiet and good.
Or burned alive.
This was what I believed for a large part of my formative years. I lived in a kind of terror that I struggle to undo now so I can have healthy relationships and work in a field I enjoy.
Because most of my childhood was about convincing people that I was not hallucinating.
I got great grades because I overheard the doctor tell my mom to notice if my grades slipped. What was normal concern from a doctor turned into paranoia in me.
And what would happen if my grades slipped?
I didn’t want to find out.
I became numb to time, numb to people shouting my own name. Because I seemed so disconnected, my family came to know me as bookish and not very athletic.
But I wanted to jump. To run. To swing.
I just didn’t want to be burned alive.
Then came puberty. My round belly went up to my tits and down to my ass.
And my seizures went away. By 14, I was able to stop taking my medication.
The stomach pains stopped. I still had bad dreams sometimes, but no hallucinations. However, I was afraid to celebrate.
Nightmares have a way of coming back once you get too cocky.
So I always stayed alert. I always believed, deep down, that it wasn’t over.
My friends pressured me to smoke and drink. But I didn’t want to.
I had a clean brain. To welcome substances would be to welcome the devil back in.
That was something my experimenting friends couldn’t understand. I had spent so many years high that I didn’t know who I was.
Was I actually bookish? Bad at sports? Quiet and withdrawn?
The medication supposedly had side effects on sex drive. Was my sex drive a normal sex drive, or was it influenced by pills? I didn’t ever seem to have any crushes, on anyone. Was that me, or was that the pills?
I had nothing to compare it to. Sex drive wasn’t a thing I had at 8.
And so I didn’t party. I didn’t drink. I didn’t have sex.
I was just happy to be able to trust my eyes (sort of) and know that when my name was called, my name was really being called.
It’s been 16 years, and undoing those knots tied so long ago has been no easy task.
I haven’t had a seizure since I was in my early teens. But those images: of forced brain surgery, of seizure patients who are actually possessed by the devil, or who are actually holy and burned alive…those images still strike fear into me.
I am healed. I have goals. I have gone to college and I have my MFA in Creative Writing (so I can’t really regret being so bookish as a child).
Being medically high for a large chunk of my childhood has certainly shaped me, transformed me, and it’s not all bad. I’m sure it will go on to influence my writing.
But make no mistake: I don’t want to be holy, to be possessed, to be the village idiot or the genius with the brain too broken for her own good.
I want whatever my libido is supposed to be, whatever my natural energy levels are supposed to be. I want to be grounded in this material world instead of floating off to that place where I can’t trust my own name.
Regular, sober, tasting, and seeing.
How precious these gifts are.